Diary for 2018

map of Pauline's Swamp


Friday 5th: Snowdrops have just started to flower.


In flower this month are snowdrops and little else.

Saturday 17th: A work day. Much of the bramble scrub was cleared. The seasonal pond was cleared of much dead sedge. The two areas of grass cuttings from previous years were tidied up by raking and heaping the grass into smaller, taller piles.

February was generally wet. All wet areas were filled to overflowing. At the end of February heavy snow fell


In flower this month are snowdrop, daffodil, primrose and lesser celandine.

Sunday 4th: February's snow started to melt, quite rapidly. Temperature was about 7 degrees C.

Tuesday 6th Snowdrops are now past their best and daffodils are starting to open. There are relatively few daffodil flowers this year as most are blind.

Wednesday 7th: More plants are starting to leaf-up. Young Meadowsweet leaves are now evident.

Friday 9th Two notice boards fixed up in the barn. These were from an old Arken A-frame board discarded by St. Mary's Church, Burwell. Arken in Newmarket supplied new plastic cover sheets at no charge.

Saturday 10th Several toads were evident in the main pond. Also I noticed what appeared to be a goldfish - clearly someone had dumped it. To dump goldfish is a wildlife pond is completely irresponsible!

Sunday 11th Goldfish sighting confirmed. Picture taken. There are now a large number of toads in the pond - probably all males. The females arrive later.

Also I took a net along to remove the surface growth of algae on the lower scrape. Algal growth is usually an indicator of excess nutrient in the water. The Swamp has been home to livestock in the past which is the probable cause.

Monday 12th A digger was used today to raise the level of the causeway, using the soil heap outside the gate.. It will take a while for the soil to settle properly and in the meanwhile we will need to keep raking it level and treading it down.

Wednesday 14th Paul Hawes spent time raking the soil on the causeway flat. It is slowly compacting as people walk on it.

Thursday 15th A vehicle was driven over the still soft soil of the new causeway. It is a mess!

Some frog spawn is evident in the upper scrape. However there is no spawn yet in the main pond. Most of the amphibians evident appear to be toads.

Monday 19th There is some ice on the occasional pond - Saturday and Sunday were below freezing bit it took those two days for a significant amount of ice to form. The ground is too frozen to do any work to improve the causeway but - apart from the mess made on Thursday - the walked-on parts are compacting well.

Complaints have reportedly been made to the council about the state of the Swamp. This resulted in a visit from an annoyed Mike Swift, chairman of the trust, with his with his wife Liz Swift, chair of the Parish Council. It is not clear when the complaints were made but the work has made passable what was a very wet and swampy, nearly impassable, track. Odd the there should be complaints - there is a small clue in the place's name!

Some wood chippings have now been spread to make a more obvious path over the causeway.

Tuesday 20th All the ice has thawed after the cold snap, the toads have spawned. There is no more frog spawn evident.

Wednesday 21st Spent a morning with Paul Hawes making good the damage to the causeway, adding more soil to it, levelling it up more and compacting it. It is now far better than before the work started!

There is toad spawn also in the top scrape, with the single sample of frogspawn. Mating toads are still apparent here and in the main pond.

Friday 30th There is more frog spawn in the main pond - 3 or 4 more spawnings. This was unexpected as frogs usually spawn earlier than toads. Clearly the recent cold spell has altered timings.


Sunday 1st Last autumn yellow rattle (Rhianthus minor) seed was spread in certain area of the meadow. Four patches of grass were cut very close to give then a start. More seed was spread on some of the molehills. Today seedlings are evident in many of these places.

Monday 2nd Observed the first newt. It was small and thin, so probably a male. It was eating frog spawn.

Wednesday 4th The first cowslip flowers are opening. However most of the cowslips are still just small bunches of green leaves. Cowslips (and other primulas) cross breed with each other and it is conceivable that these very early ones are crosses with early garden primulas.

Saturday 14th a definite sighting of the goldfish fist seen on March 10th. It was hiding in a thicket of willow moss on the bottom. On moving the moss it buried itself in the chara on the bottom, so it is a shy goldfish.

Woodpecker's nest
Woodpecker's nest
Very evident on the ground was a spray of wood chippings, around the base of a grey poplar. In this grey poplar, about 4 metres from the ground, was a newly and neatly pecked hole, so we have a resident woodpecker.

Today's sunny weather has hastened the spawn hatching. Both frog and toad are now tiny tadpoles.

Sunday 22nd Cuckoo flowers and ground elder are evident. There have never been many cuckoo flowers - East Anglia is too dry for them to properly flourish - but there appear to be more in Pauline's Swamp this year.

Tuesday 24th There may be another water vole: standing at the south west corner of the pond I saw an animal about the right size swimming at the bottom of the pond. It was darting south towards cover so impossible to properly see but it was small for a rat. It had a distinct, long tail.

Thursday 26th This year a water crowfoot (probably ranunculus trichophyllus, see last year) has appeared in some profusion in the main pond. We have been waiting for it to break the surface and flower. However the pond water is so clear that the plant is actually flowering under water!


May 5th Very hot. Plants are flourishing. Pond is crystal clear. We planted a yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). Also added a third fringed water lily (Nymphoides peltata) to the main pond - one was added last October, another earlier this year.

One on the water crowfoot plants in the main pond has reached the surface and flowered.

Some yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) were planted.

Tuesday 8th The flag irises are now in bloom. The crowfoot in the north east corner of the pond is flowering.

May 20th The two female goat willows are shedding seeds: both ponds are covered in their fluff. The yellow rattle is flowering. It is noticeable that the grass where yellow rattle wa seeded is less vigorous.

It is also noticeable that the meadow section is divided into three parts: the north end hosts buttercups and cow parsley. Then there is a section where the grass is lush. At the south end the grass is slightly less vigorous and it is here that the most diverse spread of wild flowers appear in summer.

May 27th

Fennel pondweed
Fennel pondweed
Water violet
Water violet
The pond is still splendid - glass clear and various water plants are flourishing. In previous years, although the pond is normally full, the water has been cloudy, green and covered with algae.

May 28th Rain today, but the end of rainfall - the following weeks are dry.


In flower this month, but near their end are Buttercups, Flag Iris, water crowfoot. Others are just starting: Watercress, Black Knapweed nd Meadow vetchling, Also splendid are some of the grasses, particularly the Yorkshire fog. Buttercups have diminished in spendour but continue to flower in less profusion

Monday June 4th For some weeks now we have been able to hear very loud chirpings from the woodpecker's nest that we noted on April 14. This afternoon, on returning from a weekend away, the nest was silent. A few feet further on lay the dead body of a (probably lesser spotted) woodpecker.

Friday June 8th Black Knapweed (Knautia arvensis) and Meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) are just starting to flower. Many plants are near the end of their flowering period.

June 8th

Yorkshire fog
Yorkshire fog
Some of the grasses are splendid - especially the Yorkshire Fog, which is quite purple this year.

Tuesday Jun 12th Some of the Tufted Vetch plants are now flowering.

Wednesday Jun 13th There has been very little rain for several weeks, but water still flows. The pond levels are therefore still holding up although there is now much less water flowing through the pipe in the causeway.

Thursday Jun 14th

Fen bedstraw flowers
Fen bedstraw flowers
Fen bedstraw (Galium uliginosum) is now flowering. Difficult to see as it inhabits the sides of the edge of the very wet area of the stream - water flow has been good this year so the fen bedstraw is thriving. Its flowers are like fairy lights sprinkled in the other vegetation.

The few water forget-me-nots that are present are in flower.

Saturday Jun 23rd Many of the grasses have now fallen flat. Water flow is lower so the conduit under the causeway is not now flowing. Ladies bedstraw is starting to flower. Tufted Vetch is now in fill flower. Meadowsweet is just starting.

Tuesday 27th The summer flowers are starting to show - Lady's Bedstraw, Black Knapweed, Field scabious. However, this year the grass is very tall so many of the flowers are quite difficult to find, let alone see. so the flower display this year is disappointing.

The Great hairy Willow herb is just starting to open its flowers. With the flooding of the lower area, below the causeway, this has proliferated.


Monday 2nd The Fringed water lilies are doing well - one of then seems to have a flower stalk growing. It is noticeable that all three plants are putting out runners to move eastwards in the pond. This is because the pond is shaded by trees (and consequently relatively cold) such that it gets no morning sun, little midday sun and more evening sun. So the east side of the pond benefits from this evening sun thus favouring plant growth.

I also added some more soft hornwort - the specimens added earlier have not done well, hardly coming out of their winter state and still tending to stay at the bottom of the pond because of the cold and lack of direct sunlight.

Monday 16th Returning from 10 day holiday, water still flows from the feeder pond, though rate is reduced. Main pond is full, level has dropped slightly. The Occasional pond level has dropped a lot, no water flows out of it.

The fringed water lily is flowering, as is the water plantain. The Great Hairy Willow-herb is flowering. Also the wild carrots have proliferated this year and are now very much in evidence, not only in the swamp but also on the roadsides - the cold wet spring must have suited germination.

The meadowsweet and the Great Hairy Willowherb are about at their best now.

Wednesday 18th Introduced some Curled Pondweed - Potamogeton crispus. Not a rare plant, but not common in this area.


Friday 3rd This morning water was still just flowing, so the pond water level was about 2,5cm below the platform. This evening it has stopped, and the pond water level has dropped to about 9.5cm below the platform.

Saturday 4th pond water level continues to drop: now measured at 19cm below the platform at 6 p.m..

Monday 6th Water level is 28cm below platform, 7 p.m. so has dropped 9cm in 24 hours!

Tuesday 7th Water level 34cm below.

Wednesday 8th Water level 32cm below.

This morning the meadow area is being mowed. The mowings are being removed. This is to reduce fertility - which encourages wild flower seeds to grow, at the expense of the grasses.

However the machine being used to pick up the mowings by means of a vacuum cleaner. This will suck up all the seeds, so there will be very few to grow! This problem was pointed out to the trust on Monday 6th August when the same machine was used on Spring close.

Furthermore, the wild carrots (daucus carota) which were so plentiful this year, had not finished flowering and had not set seed. This ia a biennial so we can anticipate their absence in 2019!

Friday 10th Recent rain has been enough to raise the feeder pond level so some water is flowing. The main pond level is nopw 31.5cm below the platform.

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First published Monday the 17th of April, 2017.
Last modified: December 29 2019 10:12:42.
Written by Richard Torrens.
© 2017-2024 Richard Torrens.